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Sewing Chores: Tips to maximize sewing time

Even if you love sewing, there’s some parts that can be a chore. Ignoring those tasks or leaving them for later can result in wasted sewing time and money. Here’s a list of chores I try to tackle when I have a few minutes so that my real sewing time is spent actually sewing.

Bobbin winding

If you have a Side Winder, bobbin thread running out mid-project might not be a big hassle. If you rely on your machine to wind bobbins, though, running out means stopping your work, re-threading your machine to wind a bobbin and then setting it back up to sew. To prevent this headache, when you have a few spare moments, wind a few bobbins in your most commonly used colors. If you have a project in mind, wind a couple of bobbins in the needed colors. Keep extra bobbins on hand and wind at least one for every different thread color you have. 

Pre-winding extra bobbins makes this notice less annoying.

Clean your machine

Lint, threads and dust build up over time and can cause poor stitch quality or even damage your machine. It’s a good idea to make a habit of brushing the debris out at the end of each project, or during projects with linty fabrics.

If the inside of your machine looks like this, you should probably clean it more often.

Periodically you’ll want to vacuum out your machine to really clean it. Vacuum attachments made for cleaning computers work well for this. Some people use canned air, but that’s not recommended. It pushes some of the debris deeper into your machine.

Oil your machine

Once your machine is thoroughly clean, take a moment to oil it according to your manual. This will keep it running smoothly and reduce the need for costly repairs. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find one online. 

After oiling, always sew a few rows on scrap fabric to soak up excess oil. That way, you won’t risk ruining a project with oil spots. 

Tidy up

The best practice is to put away tools and excess fabric as you go. It’s easy to get distracted and forget, though. Taking a moment here and there to run through your sewing area to tidy up when you aren’t working on a project can save sewing time later.

Keep a shopping list

Nothing is more annoying than having to stop work because you ran out of a necessary supply. Make note of supplies that are low or that have run out on a notepad to take on your next shopping trip.

Prewash fabric

Unless you know your final project will never be washed, you should always prewash your fabric. One way to make sure this happens is to wash it as soon as you bring it home from the store. You could also work it into your usual laundry schedule. Having a prewashing routine prevents delaying a project or worse, giving in to the temptation to make something and have your final product ruined in the wash.

Tip: Serging or zig-zag stitching the cut edges will prevent excess fraying in the wash.https://subearthancottage.com/random-sewing-tip-painless-prewash

These are the chores that, for me, are the biggest sewing time-wasters when neglected. Please share your dreaded sewing chores and tips to keep them from becoming time-wasters in the comments.

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Patching Denim Jeans and Embroidery Embellishment

Another way to patch denim jeans

My mom gave me several pairs of worn out denim jeans for me to play with several months ago.  A few just happened to be my favorite style from Old Navy and in my size. Rather than cut them up for other projects, I decided to make them cute with patches and a little embroidery. Here’s the method I used for patching denim jeans.

Another way to patch denim jeans
First, the knees.

Patching the knees

Prepping the denim jeans

In order to sew at the knees, you have to carefully rip out the stitches along one leg seam. You don’t have to rip out the entire seam, but you need to give yourself plenty of room above and below the knee to work. One seam is usually top-stitched. To make it easier all around, do NOT rip out the top-stitched seam.

After ripping out the seam, press the denim as smooth as possible with an iron.

Prepping the fabric

To patch the denim jeans, I chose to go underneath the rips and leave the torn edges visible. For the patches, I used cotton quilting material left over from sewing masks . I cut the fabric into squares a few inches bigger than I needed to patch. In the future, I will probably interface the fabric at this time. I knew I planned to interface everything at a later step, though, so I didn’t.

I pinned the fabric to the inside of the denim jeans.

Sewing the patches

Before sewing the crazy stitches shown in the photos, I sewed a single line of stitching all around the patch about a quarter of an inch inside the edge of the quilting fabric. This kept it in place while I did the crazy reinforcing stitches. After it was secure, I stitched in all different directions between the edge of the tear and slightly overlapping the first single line of stitching.

This side was more worn out, so it got more reinforcement stitching.

When jeans rip, usually the material around the tear is worn thin as well. In the past, I often left too much of the worn area without reinforcement. This results in new rips soon after the first repair. This time I reinforced at least an inch and a half around the tears.

Reinforcing the patched denim jeans with interfacing

After I was done stitching, I ironed interfacing to the inside. I did the interfacing last to act as a soft layer between my knees and the stitching. In retrospect, I probably should have interfaced the quilting cotton first, and then interfaced again at this step if I felt it was necessary. So far my jeans are holding up with the way I did it, though.

Sew it up

With the patches done, all that’s left is resewing the side seams. I just pinned it closed and sewed it back along the original stitching line. For the overcasting to finish the raw edges, I was lazy and used the overedge stitch on my sewing machine instead of switching to my serger. Zig-zag stitching along the edge to finish it would also work.

Embroidering the pocket

To embroider the pocket, I first removed the pocket from my jeans. Since it’s too small to hoop, I hooped tear away stabilizer alone and secured the pocket to the stabilizer with a glue stick. I used my Damask Rose embroidery pattern for the embellishment.

After the embroidery machine was done working its magic, I removed the stabilizer and replaced the pocket on my jeans using a heavy denim thread in a close shade to the original thread.

Simple, right? Actually, I tried to do that, messed up the hook timing on my Kenmore sewing machine AGAIN within the first few stitches and had to move to my backup vintage Montgomery Ward Signature machine. It took a few minutes of fiddling with the settings, but once I got it set up correctly it sewed through the heavy denim layers like butter.

In all fairness to my Kenmore, I did probably deserve it this time, between the crazy reinforcement stitches and then trying to sew through multiple layers of denim with thick thread. At least this time it let me reset the hook timing without much fuss.

Have you gotten more acquainted with your sewing machine lately? I’d love to see your projects in the comments.

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Homemade Watercolor Paints

Thaddeus loves to paint. I like letting him paint, but store bought watercolors run out quickly. The colors also get mixed to some shade of brown. A few weeks ago, he really wanted to paint, so I decided to give making our own watercolor paints a try. 

The nice thing about homemade water colors is that you can make larger amounts, and putting them in a muffin tin or ice cube try keeps the colors separate. This recipe made fifteen slightly more than half-filled mini muffin cups worth of paint. The mini muffin tin I used is similar to this one.

Homemade watercolor paintss

As for colors, you’re only limited by the food coloring available. Gel food coloring gives a more vivid result and dries quicker. Liquid food coloring works fine, too, but with a less pigmented result.

The original recipe called for corn syrup. That’s not something I regularly keep on hand, so I improvised by making a simple syrup with sugar and water. To make simple syrup, combine two parts sugar to one part water. Heat until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture thickens. Simple syrup is great for sweetening iced tea, lemonade and other cold drinks. It’s easier to fully mix in the syrup than trying to dissolve granulated sugar in cold beverages.

Homemade Watercolor paints

Homemade watercolor paintss

Homemade watercolor paints

Make these long lasting watercolors for your kiddos with common household ingredients.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Drying time 1 d

Equipment

  • muffin tin or ice cube trays to hold the finished paints

Ingredients
  

  • 8 tbsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp light corn syrup or simple syrup For simple syrup, mix two parts sugar and one part water. Heat until sugar is melted and mixture is thickened.
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • food coloring in desired colors gel works better, but you can use liquid

Instructions
 

  • Combine baking soda and vinegar in a medium bowl or measuring cup. Be sure it's big enough to contain the fizzing.
  • Add cornstarch and corn syrup or simple syrup. Mix well.
  • Pour into the sections of your muffin tin or ice cube tray. I used a 24 count mini muffin tin and half filled 15 sections. The empty sections are great for holding water while painting.
  • Add food coloring a little at a time and stir until you get the desired color.
  • Allow to dry for about a day. You could also put it in the oven on the lowest setting (my oven's lowest is 150 degrees) for about 20 to 30 minutes to speed up the process, but the paints may get a little bubbly. Watch it closely if you choose to bake it dry.
  • To use, wet a paintbrush and swirl over the paints.

What fun at-home activities do your children enjoy? Share them in the comments to help others needing ideas while we’re all sheltering in place.

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Embroidery freebies

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 30. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

This post contains an Amazon Associate’s link. Purchasing through that link will give me a small commission at no cost to you.

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Kombucha Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a few common questions about Kombucha. I’ve answered them based on my research and personal experience.

Kombucha questions

How much should I drink?

If you’ve never had Kombucha before, you’ll want to start slowly. Kombucha can have a detoxifying effect that can be unpleasant if you rush it. It is recommended to start with about an ounce per day at first and gradually increase until you reach a comfortable level for you. If you notice any ill effects cut back or stop for a few days to let your body catch up. Drinking lots of water can help, too.

Of course, you should always listen to your body. If you feel like you can’t tolerate kombucha don’t push it. There are plenty of other ways to get probiotics. Also, I’m not a doctor, and the above might not apply to everyone depending on your personal health. If you have any concerns, definitely consult your doctor.

Can I use metal utensils when making Kombucha?

Metal tea kettles for boiling the water are fine. It’s fine to stir the tea and sugar together with a metal spoon before adding the SCOBY. What you want to avoid is the SCOBY coming into contact with metal as that can damage the SCOBY. Even then, I have heard very brief contact is ok, such as when cutting up a giant SCOBY. I prefer to peel apart the layers and avoid metal touching my SCOBYs, though.

Can I use honey/stevia/coconut sugar/some other sweetener?

The sugar is food for the SCOBY and plain white sugar is recommended because it is easy for the SCOBY to digest. I have heard of some people having success with other sugars, but I haven’t tried it myself. If you want to try another form of sugar, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a tea/white sugar brew as backup.

Stevia or other zero calorie sweeteners will not work because they don’t provide food for the SCOBY.

Can I use flavored teas?

Not for the main brew. You can use flavored teas to add flavor in a second ferment.

Can I use decaf teas?

This is another one where I’ve heard conflicting information. Most say not to use decaf tea. If you want to try decaf, as with different sugars, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a regular tea/white sugar brew as backup.

My SCOBY looks funny. Is it bad?

Most SCOBYs look funny. They can be smooth and creamy colored or have air pockets and brown spots. The bottoms usually have brown stringy tentacle things hanging down. New SCOBYs grow on top of older ones until they look like a stack of slimy pancakes. (Eww.) All of this is normal, and there’s probably a million variations I haven’t described.

There are two main things to watch for: mold and black. If your SCOBY molds, it will look like blue-green dusty mold, just like what grows on bread. If you get mold, throw it all out and start over.

Black means the SCOBY is dead or dying. Toss it.

My Kombucha tastes like vinegar. What happened?

Kombucha is supposed to taste vinegary, but if it’s too strong you can always mix it with something like juice to make it more palatable. You can also use super-vinegary Kombucha in place of apple cider vinegar in recipes. If it’s straight vinegar with no sugariness left, you could use it as a hair rinse or for household cleaning where you would use ACV.

To make future batches less vinegary, there’s a couple of things to try.

1. Kombucha brews faster in warmer weather. If it’s been hot, try a shorter brew time and/or increasing the amount of sugar in the brew.

2. If your SCOBY is getting super thick, split off some layers. More SCOBY = shorter brew time.

My Kombucha is too sweet. What happened?

The easiest fix is to let it brew longer. If it’s cold, moving your jar to a warmer location may help. I think the ideal range is somewhere around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should also check the condition of your SCOBY. If it is turning black, you’ll want to replace it.

Should I store my SCOBYs in the refrigerator?

No. You want to avoid extreme temperatures because they can damage the SCOBYs. The best range is between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

To store your extra SCOBYs, place them in a lidded jar with at least enough Kombucha for them to float and store in a cool-ish location, such as a pantry or shelf out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.

Find more of my kombucha posts here:  https://subearthancottage.com/search/label/Kombucha

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Flavoring Your Kombucha Tea

When you get your homebrew timing right, kombucha is pretty yummy on it’s own. Sometimes you want something a little different, though. Or maybe straight kombucha just isn’t your thing but you still want the probiotic benefits. Luckily you can easily change the taste of your kombucha to make it more palatable or fix a soda craving. Here’s my tips for flavoring your Kombucha tea.


Mixing with juice


The simplest way to flavor kombucha is to mix it with juice or another beverage. This is a great way to get started drinking kombucha. To start, add 1-2 ounces of kombucha to a glass of your favorite juice. As your body and tastes adjust to drinking kombucha you can increase the kombucha to juice ratio.


I like to dilute 3-4 ounces kombucha with sparkling or still water, add a splash of lemon or lime juice and a bit of stevia. This makes a refreshing summer drink when served over ice.

Kombucha is also nice as an add in for smoothies. It can be fizzy on it’s own, though, so make sure to account for that when adding it to blended drinks. Leaving a little extra headspace in the blender is a good idea. Or, stir it in after everything else is blended.

Flavoring your Kombucha Tea
Flavored with peach and cherry teas in a second ferment.

Flavoring your Kombucha with a second ferment

You can also add flavoring in a second, shorter ferment. Basically you’ll put your flavorings in a bottle or jar (I like canning jars), fill almost to the top with your brewed kombucha and cap the jar. Leave at room temperature for 2-4 days and then refrigerate or drink.


The second ferment can increase the carbonation in your kombucha, so it’s a good idea to be cautious when opening and storing the jars. I’ve never had a jar break from the pressure, but I have had the metal disks on canning jar lids pop up in the middle. If I think too much pressure is building up, I “burp” the jars by opening them just enough to release some of the pressure and recap.

There’s a variety of things you can add for the second ferment. Really, any herbs, spices or fruits can be added. If you want to increase the carbonation, add a little bit of sugar, honey, raisins or a sweet fruit. My favorite thing to do is put enough orange peel to fill the jar halfway, add a teaspoon of sugar or honey, top with kombucha and let it sit for two days. It makes a kind of healthier orange soda and uses something that would normally have been tossed.

Flavoring your Kombucha orange and honey
Orange peel and honey Kombucha

Other flavorings I’ve tried:

  • Lemons and limes cut into wedges, sliced or just the peels. You can also use a lemon or lime half after juicing it for another recipe.
  • Fresh sliced ginger, plain or with a dash of chai spice and squirt of honey.
  • Fruit flavored herbal teas, one bag per quart jar.
  • Blueberries.

If you brew your own Kombucha tea, I would love to hear your tips for flavoring your Kombucha. Please share them in the comments below.

Next week I plan to do a FAQ/kombucha myths post. If you have any questions please share them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine Hook Timing Part 2 with Video

I finally got my Kenmore 385 sewing machine’s hook timing adjusted and working properly again. This time, I figured out that there is a plate on the bottom of my machine that allows me to access the necessary set screw without taking the case off. I do think it’s a little more difficult to see what I’m doing that way, but it’s much less scary.

This time, once I got it adjusted, I decided to make a quick (awkward, one handed) video while I still had it open. Hopefully the video and my previous post will help others tackle this simple sewing machine repair.

Adjusting the Hook Timing on a Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine

Shop update: Freebies and a sale

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 30. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

My full shop is still open, and will be as long as everyone in my household is healthy. I’m using extra care with handwashing and using hand sanitizer before coming into contact with products and packaging as well.

All of my handmade soaps are currently on sale for 20% off. You can find them here.

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Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine Hook Timing Part 2 with Video
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Simple DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons

rainbow cupcake crayons

I originally shared this tutorial for rainbow cupcake crayons almost ten years ago when Finn was my little preschooler and I made rainbow cupcake crayons for him using all of our broken crayons. It’s easy, and you can get little ones to help with peeling the paper off of the broken crayons, and they get fun new crayons to play with once they have cooled.

Unfortunately my photos of our project got lost, but a quick Etsy search shows lots of examples of similar multicolored crayons in fun shapes. If you like the idea but don’t have tons of broken crayons around, consider supporting one of the shops on Etsy by purchasing from them.

rainbow cupcake crayons
Photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash

DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons Tutorial

  • Line a muffin pan with foil or a double thickness of cupcake liners. (Note: The wax will likely melt through, so you probably want to use a pan that you reserve for non-food projects.)
  • Remove all the paper from your crayons.
  • Break into smaller pieces if needed. I just broke them as small as I could with my fingers. Most pieces were about an inch long or smaller.
  • Sort the pieces into the lined cups. I sorted by color, but you could also mix for super swirly crayons.
  • Fill the cups to the top but don’t overfill.
  • Melt in the oven at about 200-250 degrees F. I recommend setting a baking sheet under the muffin pan. You really don’t want to have to scrape melted crayon off your oven.
  • Check about every 10-15 minutes. I let them cook until there were just a few solid chunks in the middle. Then I gently swirled them with toothpicks to sink the chunks and blend the colors.
  • When they are sufficiently melted, turn off the oven. You can carefully remove them at this point or let them cool in the oven. I didn’t need my oven, so I let them cool in there overnight.
  • Once they’ve cooled completely you can remove the papers and color away.

Mask Update

I made a few of the fitted masks I mentioned in Wednesday’s post. Overall, I think they fit well, but they are a little tedious to make, particularly if you have lots of interruptions.

Awkward photo of me modeling a fitted mask.

I looked into it a little more and found that it seems more hospitals are asking for a more simplified mask, so I’m switching to ones made by this tutorial. With batch cutting and then sewing two or three assembly line style, I can make 3-4 in a hour, even with interruptions.

Shop update: Freebies and a sale

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 7. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

My full shop is still open, and will be as long as everyone in my household is healthy. I’m using extra care with handwashing and using hand sanitizer before coming into contact with products and packaging as well.

All of my handmade soaps are currently on sale for 20% off. You can find them here.

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